We have enjoyed a breeding pair of black swans at the local lake for as long as I remember. They probably aren’t the same pair that were living there when I was a child, but it’s wonderful to still see these amazing birds having a healthy life in our area.

A few weeks ago, we realised only one swan was ever out and about on the water anymore. It wasn’t long before we spotted the mama swan on her nest, hidden away under the branches of a tree overhanging from one of the little islands. She was well protected and very hidden; only the flash of her red beak really gave her away as she carefully inspected her nest as she sat on it.

Every time we go to the lake, we make sure to choose the path that will take us passed the swan on her nest. She’s been diligent and dedicated to incubating her eggs. The black swan has an average nesting time of 40 days, so we knew the time was drawing near for a new batch of babies to arrive.

And they did! Cygnets are super fluffy grey bundles of delight. They are so cute and elegant for a baby bird, and watching the parent swans with their cygnets is very exciting. Mum and dad swan are protective and attentive to their fluffy children, paying mind of the brood at all times.

The last set of cygnets the swans had grew into beautiful black swans, who went on their way to find their own mates. I hope they’re doing well and have guarded their own nests at another body of water this year. And in time, the new babies will do the same thing, and hopefully, I’ll get to see the excitement all over again!

Promise, I’ll remember to take my camera with me next time I go for a walk, too.



It’s a cracked mud sky

The clouds which fill the sky are like a thin layer of silver-grey mud, laying dried and cracked over the dark blue expanse of night. Our waxing gibbous moon shines with such intensity that there is a rainbow halo pushing through the clouds. In the gaps between greyness you catch a twinkling of stars here and there. I miss being further away from the city, where the sky seems more starlight than darkness. The more alone you get, the more together and reachable the universe seems.

Somehow the air is clear and crisp, not a trace of mist or haze, and the lights across the river are reflecting brightly. A radio tower with a blinking red light at its peak is the silent sentry over the night. It stands upon a hill and casts its crimson glow into the air. Toward the middle of the river is where its reflection falls, and the water is ruffled, dancing for its own inconceivable reasons. If I had the time, and an inclination towards impish frivolity, I might even take one of the small boats tied by the water’s edge for a joyride. But no, I’m just too well-behaved for that.

There is a surprising lack of people around. It’s early enough that there should be someone still practicing sports on the playing field nearby, but the oval is empty and unlit. It’s too cold for the smell of grass to carry over to me, there is only the scent of chilled moisture. Even though the first whispers of spring show during the day, I still need a coat. Two trees in my yard are bursting with flowers, one covered in yellow, and the other ranging from white to purple, the petals changing colour as they age on the branch.

The six seasons of Australia are always most evident the harder I wish for winter to stay around. To the local native people, August and September is the time of Djilba, the warming season. No amount of European/English classification will change what Australia gives me. The cold rains have mostly passed until next year. There won’t be many more opportunities to lay by a fire and read while a freezing storm lashes from the west. Time goes on, and indeed, everything is changing.


Full moon darkness

I notice that we get to see the moon a lot during the day around here. There is something haunting and beautiful about it sitting in the sky, the pale grey of clouds, but round and still where it waits for the planetary kind of spin that pushes it to other skies. And of course, when night falls, the brightness! How it reflects the sunlight lets the darkness become its own kind of beauty. The contrast is all it takes to change the moon from a gentle addition, to the centre of your attention.

I think that most feelings, emotions, are at their peak when something is there to contrast them. When writing horror, the scary bits need to fall inside reassuring moments. Romance comes with a helping of distrust and heartache. Dark fantasy is contrasted when there is a bright, vivid moon shining down upon it, the beautiful moments that show you just how twisted everything else really is.

Even in shorter fiction, there has to be particular contrast, so the readers, and indeed even the writer can see just how poignant the central theme is. And sometimes that theme can blend into its surroundings first, waiting for the moment of contrast to truly show how important it is.

These thoughts come to me when I feel like I’ve perhaps deviated too far from course. When the scene runs on into characters sharing love and laughter in the lead-up to a challenging moment, I stop and realise that without these moments of brightness, the dark would not seem so expansive.


Some kind of bird like paradise

My place of gainful employment is graced with a whole stack of regular wild bird visitors. Seeing animals makes me very happy, and birds have such amusing personalities. I love to stop every now and then, just watching them cavort in the trees or across the lawns.

The locals are the crows, though there are pigeons and doves, seagulls (they come over from the Swan River), mudlarks, willie wagtails, some varieties of sparrow or finch, rainbow lorikeets, twenty-eight parrots (named for their call, supposedly sounding like “twenty-eight”), and gorgeous white cockatoos and red-tailed cockatoos. I’ve also been super blessed to see the resident boobook owl on two occasions!

No, I’m not a bird watcher or ornithologist. It’s animals in general that fascinate me endlessly.

The cockatoos are the most hilarious. They all love to vie for the top-most branches on the trees. These are, of course, also the thinnest and weakest of the branches, so you’ll see the birds swaying back and forth, wings outstretched to maintain their balance, because they will not let got of that prime position in the tree. Cockatoos also love to tear up grass, and you’ll often see them dotting the lawns.

All the parrot-like birds will sometimes hang upside down from a branch. In the cockatoo’s cases, it’s because they really want that branch! When it’s the lorikeets or twenty-eights, it’s usually because something they’re eating is hanging at such an angle, they can only reach it by also hanging downwards. I think two of the lorikeets were checking out one of the hollowed tree branches as a potential nest yesterday!

Today, I kid you not, I saw two crows holding hands. Erm, holding claws. Feet. You know. They were standing side by side, just hanging out, one with its foot curled around the top of its friend. They were very serene. I called out to the crows that I was onto them.

I know what those birds are up to. They’re being birds.


Thursday, in space

I have been weird and distracted for the past few days. I haven’t done anything productive, unless we count my semi-constant thoughts about my stories as productivity (which I kind of do and kind of don’t; it’s an integral step in my writing process, but it’s totally invisible and hard to “count”). It might just be the extra hours at my job that’s made me spacey, or it might be the time of year. I’m sleepy and content to just read a lot of books. It’s winter. Pull up a blanket next to the fire and eat apples all day.

I had a brief conversation with the lovely Cynthia Robertson about Western Australia. I don’t consider myself very nationalistic, but I truly love the land here, and there is something special about Australia. I described some of the landscape through our vast state, and it really got me thinking about a recent trip I took down south with some of my family. We drove for several hours through farmland, down into the gorgeous forests that cover the South West with cool, moist greenness. And even though I am making plans to move down there and live among the trees, it was the drive itself which brought up some interesting ideas.

There’s a secret part of me that believes the farmland is what Western Australia really is. It’s not “home” to me, not the way the dense bush is. The farms here are sprawling, dry-fenced yellow fields. We have some of the most unique trees here, growing as tall as they can, and throwing their branches wide at the top, looking almost like something from Dr. Seuss. In contrast to those, we have the short, curling trees; gnarled into a hunched, peeling, claw-like form. They are often scattered through the fields, either dead or dying, barren of leaves either way. Those trees are the melancholy bones of the bush that lived before the farms cleared everything away, laying under the endless blue skies.

I am an environmentalist, which is why my feelings towards the drought-weary hills and huddled cows and sheep come from a hidden place inside me. I am saddened by what humans have made from the world, and I see it here, in my homeland, where the farms have striped those places bare. But it’s so poignant. Driving through the country, you’re very alone, or very together. The harshness of the landscape only leaves room for absolutes. I’m a little bit in love with that part of Australia.